Donlin Gold EIS Work in Full Swing

by Ben Matheson on October 30, 2013

EIS Scoping Document / Army Corps of Engineers

EIS Scoping Document / Army Corps of Engineers

Donlin Gold must secure dozens of state and federal permits before it can break ground on the proposed mine. But many of those permits will hinge upon the multi-thousand page Environmental Impact Statement. Engineers and scientists are now building the thick document that will explain the effects of different mine configurations and the support infrastructure.

Hundreds of residents along with agencies and tribal entities in the Kuskokwim region took part in the scoping process this year that gave the Army Corps of Engineers direction into what areas the EIS should investigate. Don Kuhle is project manager for the Army Corps, the lead permitting agency.

“The EIS will ultimately evaluate a number of different alternatives that could include a no action alternatives or a number of other alternatives,” said Kuhle.

The scoping document includes dozens of suggestions that diverge from Donlin Gold’s submitted plans. People proposed major changes such as building a railroad to Bethel, or sourcing natural gas from interior Alaska. The corps is still figuring out what’s viable and what’s not.

“I mean there are some things that a probably not be practicable. Our regulations require that an alternative be reasonable and practicable. We’re in the process of determining that right now,” sajd Kuhle.

Kuhle expects the alternatives chapter be in draft form by sometime early next month. A contracted team from URS Engineering is bringing together the data on how the mine and the buried gas pipeline could impact water quality, fish, air, and social dynamics.

Kuhle says the Corps is ultimately responsible for the EIS, but other agencies have a large stake in it when they have to make individual permit decisions.

“If it isn’t adequate for their needs when it comes to the completion of the EIS, they may need to go out and gather additional information,” said Kuhle. “Hopefully that won’t happen because it will all be there in the EIS and they will be able to use it and make their permitting decisions at that time.”

The agencies will be first to see the document in June. The public will see the EIS in about a year when the Corps takes the documents out for meetings before it’s finished in late 2015. That will include a final record of decision and a preferred alternative. The Corp of Engineers is accepting comments through the Donlin EIS website.

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